Murkowski: ‘The president’s behavior was shameful’

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, right, speaks to reporters after delivering a blistering speech in the Senate Monday night. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Lisa Murkowski won’t vote to remove President Trump from office, but she says he brought dishonor to the presidency.

“The president’s behavior was shameful and wrong,” she said in a blistering speech on the Senate floor Monday night. “His personal interest do not take precedence over those of this great nation.”

Murkowski cast blame on the House, for an impeachment process she said was rushed. She also blamed senators of both parties who she said had decided the verdict before the trial even started.

“The Senate should be ashamed by the rank partisanship that has been on display here,” she said.

The structure of the Senate trial should have ensured a fair outcome, she said, “but the foundation upon which it rested was rotted.”

In the hallway afterward, Murkowski told reporters that a big factor in her decision to vote against hearing from new witnesses was a question Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked. Warren submitted a question in the Senate proceedings on Thursday that challenged the legitimacy of the chief justice for participating in a trial without witnesses. Murkowski said it struck her suddenly that Democrats were on a destructive path.

“For gosh sakes, we want to make sure there’s at least one branch of government that’s not been drug into the political mud. And that’s where they were going,” she said.

Had Murkowski decided in favor of calling witnesses, the vote would have been tied. Even if Chief Justice John Roberts refrained from casting a tie-breaker, Murkowski feared putting him in that position risked diminishing the reputation of the courts for impartiality.

As for President Trump, Murkowski says he may have had some legitimate motives in pressuring the leader of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

“He suggested it would be ‘a favor’ for ‘us,'” Murkowski said, referring to the record of Trump’s July 25 call to the president of Ukraine. “How that translates – I think he believed it could be helpful for the country but it also could be interpreted that it’s a benefit for him.”

Murkowski said Trump did not always act “with the respect and dignity that the office demands.” 

Trump will almost certainly be acquitted Wednesday, when the Senate takes its final vote on impeachment. Some lawmakers have suggested censuring the president. Murkowski says she needs to study the idea, but she says a censure will be meaningless unless it’s bipartisan.